11 Practical Tips for Eco-Friendly Landscaping in Southern Alberta

Eco-friendly landscaping yields profound benefits, both for the environment and for homeowners. This approach conserves water, supports local wildlife, enhances biodiversity, and can reduce your maintenance requirements. The cherry on top is that all of these benefits are possible without sacrificing the aesthetic appeal of your outdoor space. 

In southern Alberta, our climate is semi-arid and prone to drastic temperature shifts. By embracing sustainable landscaping practices, homeowners can significantly reduce their water usage while supporting thriving ecosystems of plants, animals, and soil. 

We’ve rounded up 11 tips to support your own eco-friendly landscaping efforts. 

Tip #1: Choose Local Plants for Your Garden

Incorporating native plants into your garden is a cornerstone of eco-friendly landscaping, especially in southern Alberta. These plants have adapted to the local climate and soil conditions, making them hardier and more resilient. This means they require less watering and fewer chemical treatments, which is not only good for the environment but also reduces your gardening workload and expenses.

There are many plants native to southern Alberta that you might choose, depending on your yard and design preferences. Here are some of our favourites:

  • The Gaillardia (Blanket Flower) and the Prairie Coneflower add vibrant colours to your garden and are drought-resistant native plants.
  • Wild Bergamot is known for attracting pollinators like bees and butterflies to support a healthy garden ecosystem

By choosing local species, you’re supporting the natural biodiversity of the region and creating a sustainable, low-maintenance garden that thrives year-round.

Tip #2: Create a Low-Water Landscape

Designing a low-water landscape, often known as xeriscaping, is particularly effective in southern Alberta’s dry climate. This approach involves selecting drought-resistant plants and arranging them according to their water needs, which significantly cuts down on water usage. Grouping plants with similar hydration needs also makes watering more efficient, conserving water resources. 

Consider plants like Blue Grama Grass or the Rocky Mountain Penstemon, both of which are well-suited to dry conditions and require minimal watering. Additionally, incorporating gravel or stone elements in your garden design can reduce the lawn area, further lowering water requirements. 

Tip #3: Use Natural Fertilizers and Pest Controls

Instead of relying on synthetic chemicals, which can harm the environment and local wildlife, opt for organic options like compost or well-rotted manure. These natural fertilizers enrich the soil and promote healthy plant growth.

For pest control, consider companion planting. This technique involves planting certain plants together to naturally deter pests. For example, marigolds are known to repel garden pests and are a colourful addition to your garden. Garlic and chives can also deter common pests when planted near roses and fruit trees. 

Tip #4: Improve Your Soil Naturally

Healthy soil is the foundation of any thriving garden, especially in the diverse landscapes of southern Alberta. Regularly adding organic matter like compost to your garden beds not only feeds your plants but also fosters a vibrant ecosystem of beneficial microbes and insects. 

These organic materials slowly release nutrients into the soil, improving its structure and fertility over time. This natural enrichment improves your soil’s structure and fertility over time, encouraging robust plant growth and increasing the soil’s ability to retain water.

Tip #5: Water Wisely

Efficient water use is crucial for sustainable landscaping in southern Alberta. There are several ways you can adopt smart water management in your landscaped space:

  • Consider installing a drip irrigation system, which delivers water directly to plant roots and reduces waste through evaporation and runoff.
  • Use rain barrels to collect rainwater for garden use.
  • Water early in the morning or late in the evening to reduce evaporation.
  • Group plants with similar water needs together to reduce overall consumption and make your efforts more effective.

Wise watering practices are often low effort, requiring only minor shifts in how you approach tending to your garden. Not only will you conserve water, you’ll also promote healthier plant growth. 

Tip #6: Mulch Your Garden Beds

Mulching is an effective and simple way to enhance the health and appearance of your garden beds. Applying a layer of organic mulch around your plants offers multiple benefits, including: 

  • Promoting soil moisture retention, which is particularly valuable in southern Alberta’s dry climate.
  • Suppressing weed growth, saving you time and effort in garden maintenance.

When choosing mulch, opt for organic options like shredded bark, straw, or leaf mould. These materials not only enrich the soil as they decompose but also provide a natural, aesthetically pleasing look to your garden. Be sure to apply mulch evenly and avoid piling it too close to plant stems to prevent rot. 

Tip #7: Plant a Wildlife Garden

Creating a wildlife-friendly garden is a wonderful way to contribute to southern Alberta’s local ecosystem. By planting a variety of species that bloom at different times of the year, you provide a consistent food source for pollinators like bees, butterflies, and birds. This diversity not only supports local wildlife but also contributes to a more resilient garden.

Tip #8: Use Recycled or Locally-Sourced Materials for Landscaping

Incorporating recycled or locally-sourced materials is a sustainable approach to landscaping in southern Alberta. It not only reduces the environmental impact but also adds a unique, personal touch to your garden. If you’re looking to tackle a DIY landscaping project to enhance your space, look for opportunities to use reclaimed wood for benches, borders, or even raised garden beds. Recycled stone or brick can be repurposed for beautiful, rustic paths or patios.

Tip #9: Plant Deciduous Trees Strategically

Strategic planting of deciduous trees is a smart, natural way to regulate the temperature around your home. By planting these trees on the south and west sides of your property, you can leverage the sun’s natural cycle to your advantage. In summer, their full canopy provides shade, reducing the need for air conditioning. When they shed their leaves in fall, they allow sunlight to pass through, warming your home during the colder months. 

Tip #10: Start Composting at Home

Starting a compost bin is a highly beneficial practice for any eco-conscious gardener. Composting transforms your kitchen and garden waste into a rich soil amendment, enhancing soil health while reducing organic waste. It’s a simple yet effective way to contribute to a sustainable environment.

Tip #11: Introduce a Variety of Plant Species

Diversifying the plant species in your garden is both aesthetically pleasing and ecologically beneficial. By incorporating a variety of plants that are native to southern Alberta, you will:

  • Build a more resilient garden that is capable of withstanding pests, diseases, and fluctuating weather conditions.
  • Create a more balanced ecosystem that attracts a range of beneficial wildlife.
  • Promote strong soil health.
  • Enjoy a visually dynamic and interesting outdoor environment.

Consider incorporating a mix of perennials, annuals, shrubs, and trees. Each plant you introduce contributes uniquely to the garden’s overall health, reducing the need for maintenance and interventions. 

The Bottom Line

Sustainable landscaping doesn’t have to be difficult, and eco-friendly strategies will often save you time and money. Simple actions like choosing native plants or using organic materials can have a significant impact, especially in the southern Alberta region. Embracing some or all of these practices is a great way to not only enhance the appeal of your outdoor space, but also contribute to a more sustainable local environment.